In comments on another posting a while back, someone asked me a question about the relationship between the Old Testament reading and the rest of the readings in the Sunday lectionary after the Day of Pentecost. I thought it might be interesting to post some of my reflections on this for others.
During the season after the Day of Pentecost in the Revised Common Lectionary, there are two tracks for the Old Testament readings. For the sake of continuity, parishes are supposed to choose one or the other.
Track One is a semi-continuous reading of major Old Testament books. So starting in June through mid-August in Track One, Year B, quite a bit of 2 Samuel is read.
By contrast, Track Two is a Gospel-related track in which the Old Testament reading is selected because it has some sort of thematic connection to the Gospel reading appointed for the day. So during the same June through mid-August period during Year B, this track features numerous Old Testament books, including Ezekiel, Job, Amos, Jeremiah, Exodus, and Proverbs. This is a very similar approach to what we have in the now defunct Prayer Book lectionary.
The idea behind Track One is a laudable one, i.e., that we tend to short-change the Old Testament in our Sunday Eucharistic lectionary, and that we need to hear more of the Old Testament and be more familiar with it. And also that if we're hearing the development of some of the great Old Testament stories over the course of successive Sundays, there are unique opportunities for preaching that otherwise might be missing.
The Achilles heel of the Track One approach is the assumption that you have a sufficient critical mass of persons who actually come to church Sunday after Sunday to hear the unfolding of the Old Testament readings in this way. Since Memorial Day, attendance where I serve has been sporadic (a typical and predictable summertime pattern). Which means that if we're using Track One, many of our people are going to miss huge chunks of the story. So when they come to church, it's sort of like sitting down to watch a 2 hour movie when you've missed the first 90 minutes.
An additional issue is that the Track One approach quite often has Old Testament readings that do not have any thematic connection whatsoever to the Epistle or Gospel readings for the day. That can create a sense of dissonance for preacher and parishioner alike.
A couple of years ago we used Track One, but for the past two years we switched to using Track Two. In light of the problems raised above, I'm more pleased with the Track Two approach.
Which track are you using in your parish and why?